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24th Annual Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Award Recipients Announced

April 20, 2016

CED announces  recipients of 24rd Annual Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards.


News Release — For info contact Lori Melton,, 218-726-8830.

The UMD Center for Economic Development (CED) announced the recipients of its 24rd Annual Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards during a luncheon at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on April 20. UMD Chancellor Lendley “Lynn” C. Black welcomed attendees and Mark Labovitz, the award namesake’s son, provided opening remarks before more than 400 business and community leaders.

Since 1993, the Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards have recognized small business owners who have dared to dream, taken risks and invested in the region. This year’s award recipients, honored as part of Small Business Week, were selected from 52 nominees from throughout the Twin Ports and Arrowhead Region.

Special awards were also presented by UMD CED for Entrepreneurial Vision, Entrepreneurial Leadership and Lifetime Achievement. UMD’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics also named its Business Person of the Year during the ceremony.

The 2016 recipients are:

Affordable Cremation & Burial – Matt Johnsrud, Duluth
A full-service mortuary, Affordable Cremation & Burial provides cremation and traditional burial with embalming services in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The company’s differentiator is that it does not have a chapel on site, reducing families’ overhead costs. For owner Matt Johnsrud, the business’ greatest success is the earned trust and respect of families.

Emerging Entrepreneur
Day Tripper of Duluth – Jake Boyce and Matti Erpestad 

A year-round outdoor guiding service that offers fully supplied, equipped and guided trips, Day Tripper showcases northern Minnesota’s land and waterscape. Recognized for excellence by established travel sites, the young company is consistently growing its customer base, staff, and fleet of boats, boards, bikes and other gear.

Established Entrepreneur
Advanced Design Awnings & Signs – Chris Mathews, Cloquet
With the assimilation of two other companies and expanded offerings, Advanced Design Awnings & Signs has become the area’s largest and most diverse awning and sign company. It manufactures more than 90 percent of all the signs and awnings it sells, and installs them throughout the region. Business gross volume has grown more than 200 percent in the last six years.

Mature Entrepreneur
Hasbargen Logging – The Hasbargen Family, Birchdale, Minn.

Hasbargen Logging buys stumpage, cuts timber and delivers it to mills across the region. A longtime business now transitioning to the fourth generation of family loggers, it’s continued to grow, increase revenues and provide steady employment despite mill closures in the region and market ups and downs.

Environmentally Engaged Entrepreneur:
Loll Designs – Greg Benson, Dave Benson and Tony Ciardelli, Duluth 
A designer and manufacturer of durable outdoor furniture accessories made with recycled plastic, Loll Designs is a unique and nationally recognized brand with products sold in the U.S. and abroad. Sustainability is at the core of the business, and it enhances people, planet and company in everything it does. Loll Designs also contributes substantially to local organizations.


The Labovitz School of Business and Economics also presented its annual award during the luncheon:

Labovitz School of Business & Economics Business Person of the Year – Eric Norberg, Minnesota Power
Norberg was chosen for being a leading innovator and creative entrepreneur in the energy industry over a 38-year career, resulting in his now being president of ALLETE Clean Energy. Under his leadership, the company has grown in less than five years to be ALLETE’s second largest subsidiary, contributing $30 million of net income in 2015 and growing the company from four to 75 employees.


The Labo Awards ceremony’s final three special awards were presented by the UMD Center for Economic Development:

Entrepreneurial Vision – Tom Stender, Duluth
Stender was honored for his innovative approaches as an insurance executive and commercial real estate developer. Since becoming chairman and CEO of the Otis-Magie Insurance Agency in 2011, its revenues have increased 75 percent and its number of employees has grown from 27 to 51. He also owns, improves and manages 275,000 square feet of commercial space in the Northland.

Entrepreneurial Leadership – Bill Bennett, Duluth
The CEO of LHB, a 260-person engineering, architectural and planning firm with offices in Duluth, Superior and two other Minnesota cities, was honored for his leadership at LHB and beyond. Bennett has been actively engaged in economic development activities in Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin for 35 years, and is a strong supporter of higher education and workforce development.

Lifetime Achievement – Donn Larson, Duluth
Considered the Dean of Northland public relations and advertising practitioners, Larson began his career 65 years ago and is perhaps best known as a longtime owner of the Westmoreland, Larson & Hill ad agency. For decades, whenever there were tough communications challenges in the region, especially related to mining, energy, forest products and other natural resources based issues, Larson was usually called to solve them.


The 24th annual Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards, presented by the UMD Center for Economic Development, were also sponsored by maurices and the Flint Group as premier sponsors. Other event sponsors included: America’s SBDC, Cutting Edge Metals, the Entrepreneur Fund, Greenfield Communications, the IRRRB, KBJR 6 and Range 11, the Labovitz School of Business and Economics, MBFC, Minnesota Power, the Natural Resources Research Institute, Park State Bank and the SBA.

UMD CED provides technical assistance to individuals who have an interest in starting or expanding a business in Northeastern Minnesota, annually assisting about 700 businesses. Its web address is; its phone number is 218-726-7298.

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